Monday, January 28, 2008

AZ Light Rail - A "number's game?"

Today's paper had another large article about the Phoenix Light Rail Project. Kind of a, light at the end of the tunnel / homestretch thing. Near the end of the article, it mentions:

"As part of its grant agreement with the federal government, Metro promised at least 26,000 boardings a day for the first year of operation. To meet that target, Metro is planning a series of marketing events along the line this year. As the agency prepares to begin testing in each line segment, light-rail officials plan to hold "milestone events" to let people tour the vehicles."

I have heard a little bit about some planned events but not a whole lot. I do know that the first weekend is going to be free to ride and some events with music, media and probably hot dogs/apple pie will be thrown in for good measure. Granted, it's early and they have time to get the word out but I recently read some information about the new rail line in Charlotte, North Carolina that I thought was interesting. According to Debe, a blogger in Charlotte, Ridership for the first month of their system was approximately 9000 passenger trips per day. Now, if you consider that at roughly 1/2 the size of their system in comparison with the Arizona Light Rail system, it could be a little thin for Metro.
I'm sure the business owners along the route hope the 26,000 number will be easily matched and I look forward to not only watching the numbers roll in come December but participating in the parties. :-)

Friday, January 25, 2008

ASU and Phoenix Light Rail

A couple of months ago, I wrote about how Light Rail should be a great asset to ASU students. Today, as a follow up, I was downtown and took some photos of the area near some of the campus buildings. The stop at Central and Van Buren, has a sign that says, "ASU Phoenix campus." (see pic below) Also shown below is a pic in front of the ASU Nursing school building which is just North/East of the rail stop. The amount of construction in this area is amazing and downtown is growing like crazy.
Today's trip reminded me of a conversation I had with Ron at Metro about the early adapters of the rail project. We discussed the fact that this should be very useful for students that want to get back and forth between the Phoenix and Tempe campuses. We also talked about the fact that students would probably be very willing to be some of the early adapters and ride the line on a regular basis. Interestingly enough, my friend Samuel ( Deserted After Dark blog ) and I agree that rail will be beneficial. Maybe I can get him and some of his friends like Candi and Danielle and the rest of the "StAR" crew to give us some insight. :-)
I hope you like the pics.. For next week, I'm going to check out some of the cool stuff going on around the Tempe campus..

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

11 Breaks Found in New Light Rail Line

I was surprised to see the story today about the 11 breaks in the Light Rail Line. The blog on the az central site had more than a few comments about the story, most of which are (of course) pretty critical of the entire system. Mayor Gordon "guarantees" that we will have "the safest system in the nation."
Some things that came to my mind were.. Are line breaks common in other cities with light rail? Would a 6" to 7" break in a line be enough to cause a huge safety problem? If/when this type of thing happens once the system is operational, how long would it take to fix?
Just last week I mentioned how impressed I was with the entire system. The test track we rode on was exceptionally smooth and felt very safe. I firmly believe they will figure this out but I'll sure try to find some more information and get some answers..

Monday, January 14, 2008

Light Rail and Dry Cleaner's..

The new Arizona Light Rail project is is being written about more and more by the papers. It's probably not surprising that I seem to read a lot of these articles. During the past few days, I read about "walkable corridors" near Light Rail that Phoenix and Tempe are embracing. One opening paragraph of "In five years or so, light-rail commuters may be able to drop off their dry cleaning, pick up groceries and grab a cup of coffee at a train station near Apache Boulevard and Dorsey Lane in Tempe." is a good opening paragraph to an article discussing some of the future benefits and challenges of the rail system. Issues that are discussed range from the billions of dollars of current and proposed development near the stations, the walk ability factor in relation to a 5-10 minute walk from a station, meshing commercial and residential areas etc.

The chairman of the Tempe Transportation Commission says that he's toured light-rail systems in Denver, San Diego and Portland to see what kind of businesses work best around light-rail stations. They include dry cleaners, florists, shoe-repair shops and coffee shops.

Tempe's deputy public works manager would like to encourage more pedestrians around light rail stations but is quoted as saying "No car washes, auto-related uses are restricted, no drive-throughs, no (plant) nurseries." Instead, the city is encouraging the building of dry cleaners, coffee shops, retail stores, day-care centers, bookstores, and service-oriented businesses.

The entrepreneur in me says we better all go out and find a great spot for a dry cleaning business near a rail stop. The demand will certainly be there! :-)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Phoenix Light Rail Cars - 10 things I remember

As a follow up to my tour of the Rail Facility this week, here are a few things I remember.. OK, so these are some "facts" as I remember them, as I was told or as I have read.

1. Arizona Light Rail cars will be among the most technologically advanced in the world.

2. 16 cameras on each train. ie: security, monitors etc.

3. Cars are 90 feet long, 12 feet high, 8.5 feet wide.

4. No-step boarding. This is really cool. Un-like most other systems where the "working parts" are underneath the train, these trains have a lot of the parts on the roof! This allows for a street height entrance/exit that is controlled by air pressure regulating the height.

5. Seats are Kevlar and will be able to withstand much of the low life's attempts at vandalism.

6. GPS units monitor where the trains are at any given time.

7. There are four wheelchair positions and four bike racks on each car.

8. Three vehicles can be linked together. (usually for special events etc.)

9.Seats that are in the front and rear, located above the "wheels," do not face forward. Instead, they face the inside of the car. This helps the above mentioned "low life's" think twice before attempting to take someones belongings on their way out. ie: If a person is facing "forward" with their back to the doors, they might not notice someone attempting to take their bag on the way off of the train. (interesting concept)

10.The light rail cars are assembled in "pieces” so they won’t be down for maintenance. ie: a part goes out, it goes in to the facility where the piece OR an entire section of car is removed, a new one is slapped on and they will be on their way. They are saying we will have very little “down time.” I thought this was really cool to see..

These Light Rail trains, at first glance, did not seem any different to me than any I had seen before. After looking closer and talking to some of the people that work with and on the trains, I was pretty impressed.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

My First Light Rail Ride!

Yesterday, was a pretty cool day. I got to take a tour of METRO’s Operations and Maintenance Facility and I got to actually ride in one of the cars! I am lucky to have met a friend that is a "Trolley Jolly" who helped me get in. (thanks again if you read this!) Here is a slide show of some photos I took while there. I will be posting some more info on the technology, the facility and some other tid-bits that I learned. The people at Metro are amazingly friendly and I felt honored and fortunate to sit in their office and discuss some of the technology, our opinions on future ridership, demographics, expansion etc. - The trains should begin running in December as planned.

Here is a slide show of the facility and a crappy, short video of my ride. :-) Take a look.. Yep, the guy with the cheesy grin, wearing the sweet orange vest in the first pic is me behind the "wheel." :-)

Monday, January 7, 2008

The Arts and Light Rail

If you visit Phoenix Metro's Light Rail web site and click on the "Stations" page, you will notice that they mention "Art will also be featured at the stations and in the light rail bridge over the Tempe Town Lake. The project will feature artwork from both local and national artists in a variety of mediums. Station artwork can be stand-alone or integrated into the station design"

Each of the stations have different art work. For instance, if you click on the 19th Avenue and Montebello Station, you will see picture of the design and the name of the artist that was chosen. ie:
Artist: Bob Adams Phoenix, AZSteel panels mounted in the louver supports above the shade canopies will create a constantly shifting visual effect. The panels will be perforated in various sizes and painted with dichromatic colors. This will create a moiré pattern to pedestrians and riders.
While looking at each stations art work, it made me think of a few attractions close to the rail line. For instance:

The Heard Museum is easily accessed from Encanto and Central.
The Phoenix Art Museum is very close to McDowell and Central.
The Phoenix Museum of History is west of Washington & Central.
The Arizona Science Center is East of 3rd St & Washington.
The Pueblo Grande Museum is East of 44th St & Washington.

There has been a lot of media attention to the "commercial" uses for light rail and there are indeed many. I think the historic and educational opportunities are tremendous as well. In the future, I'll showcase some of the cool music and entertainment aspects along the line.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Light Rail Park & Ride - McClitock / Apache

The Tempe Light Rail Park and Ride Facility at the McClintock and Apache Stop looks /sounds like it will be an interesting place. Built on 4.6 acres, the facility will be a mix of parking, retail and residential units. The latest notes I have from a recent meeting mention 'Flexible Retail" (12,300 sq ft.), 450 residential units and a 6 story, 65 ft. tall structure.

The first 300 parking spaces will be Park & Ride and I read that the parking structure will not be prominently visible.

The first phase calls for the parking structure with retail and residential to follow. The project was designed to be "perfect" for crime prevention although I am not sure of the specifics as to what they meant by that. Based on notes from an area committee meeting, they are looking for some "destination retail" to be a part of the project. Of course, Starbucks was mentioned but maybe a cool little coffee house or some good food will suffice.
The only name I could find was Gray Development Apache Blvd. (1811 East Apache)

I took these pictures today standing between what looks to me like the main entrance and the main structure. There is a stop light just east of McClintock with the PnR signage. I will contact the developer soon to see if any new/updated information is available. (maybe some drawings or pics?)